Saturday, February 24, 2007

Cooties

I was thinking about my third grade gym teacher the other day. I haven’t thought about him for years. His name was Mr. Fleck. Back in the mid sixties we had gym class with the boys and girls together. We learned the basics of basketball and softball, ran relay races, and even learned square dancing. I had been on physical activity restriction from my doctor because of taking cortisone. My bones had to be protected from breakage so I spent most of my time sitting on the stage in the gym watching while the boys and girls romped and played. But one day Mr. Fleck turned to me and asked me if I thought I could square dance with the other kids. Thinking back on it, I must have been tapping my toes and giving him some reason to believe I wanted to be dancing rather than watching from the sidelines. I was thrilled to take my place on the gym floor with the other kids.

I proudly joined one of the four dance circles and listened to the instructions carefully. I was so excited to be joining in that I’m sure I must have been grinning from ear to ear. The class learned the steps and how to reach for the hand of our partner as we made our way around the circle. Something went wrong when I reached for the hands of the boys. They refused to take my hand and whispered “cootie” as I passed each one. I suddenly felt so out of place. It was as though by being on the sidelines so long I had gotten moldy and no one wanted to “catch” what I had. After a few minutes the music came to a sudden stop. We all heard the whistle that Mr. Fleck used when he wanted our complete attention. There was complete silence. Suddenly I heard my name in that booming male voice and I wanted to sink into the gym floor. “Dawn, tell me why the boys are not taking your hand!” “I have cooties, Mr. Fleck,” I said with great embarrassment. He asked me to go to the office and wait for him there. I left the gym feeling chilly, like sitting in a wet bathing suit on a cold day. I don’t know what all he said to the class that day, but no boy or girl ever called me “cootie” again. I don’t recall ever hearing any more about the situation. I don’t even remember how I got back to class. But I did feel differently about Mr. Fleck. I wasn’t afraid of his whistle after that. I was blessed. I had a Mr. Fleck to come to my rescue. I know what it feels like to have someone stand up for me and plead my cause. I know what it is to believe for a little while that I was unworthy until someone stood up for me as though I really had value. I wonder how many children came to believe they had cooties but had no Mr. Fleck in their lives to tell them otherwise.

Yesterday, when I wrote about being in the presence of the Lord one day, I had a fleeting thought, “Am I worthy?” Then I remembered that there is One who will speak for me. There is One who has claimed me for His own and defends me. I have received the gift of salvation from Jesus, Who gave His life for me. He will speak on my behalf, unworthy as I am, and proclaim to His Father that I am His. I’ve been washed by the blood shed for me on Calvary, and in His presence I will not need to hang my head in shame. I don’t know whatever happened to Mr. Fleck. But I do know that Jesus is alive and active in this world, looking for others to defend, to embrace and welcome home. To be free of being called “cootie” was terrific. To be free from my sin and shame is the greatest gift I have ever been given. Thank You, Lord!

Comments:

  1. Jennifer S. :-) Says:

    Mrs. Campbell, I think that is one of the best pieces you’ve written yet. It was so encouraging to me. Thank you!!
    ~Jen :-)

  2. andrea russell Says:

    Dawn, that was a wonderful story! I was one of those Kids who didnt have a Mr. Fleck. When I was a pre-teen I had severe acne and ekzema and kids teased me to the max. Once they wrote outside my frontdoor with chalk ” here lives the girl who has streusels” at that time in my life I felt so ashamed and the world was crushing in for me. I wish I had known the Lord than, but I had only my parents. Well thats my story! Haha
    I am so glad Katy is doing so much better!
    Love Andrea

  3. Doris Harriff Says:

    Dawn, that really resonated with me! I was sort-of the outcast in our elementary school, and there was always some “reason” for nearly everyone to avoid me. The one time it was “lice” - nobody had heard the term cooties then. I knew it wasn’t true, but no teacher came to my rescue. There was one student, though, who refused to avoid me. He came and sat beside me on the ledge of one of the basement windows of the school (you can ask your father-in-law what that was like), and said, “I don’t think you have lice.”

  4. Heather Kirkwood Says:

    Hey Dawn,
    Just poking my head in to say hello. I could relate to the story as well. I was always picked on as a kid, and the worst part was most of the time the teachers were totally aware of it. I hope everything’s okay with you all. I’ve had a few folks asking about Katy the last few days. Everyone’s thinking of you all.

  5. Jennifer B. Says:

    Dawn,
    Your post brought tears to my eyes. I was tortured (”picked on” is too tame a word for it) all through elementary, Junior, and most of High School. The popular girls and boys found me an easy target. In elementary school, I wall taller and thinner than just about everyone. And because I was tender hearted, I didn’t fight back. So the abuse continued year after year. My gym teacher was no Mr. Fleck. She turned a blind eye to my suffering and that of others. She even enabled it, by picking popular kids as team captains who would then select teammates from the remaining students. I can still remember the flush feeling and dread as student after student was selected, and then there was just me and my best friend, Katrina! Every day it was the same. You never get used to living with the butterflies in your stomach. You never get used to the degrading name calling and mocking. I only had one teacher who came to my defense. Mr. Griffith, in 6th grade. A mean boy kicked me during recess for no reason. I told Mr. Griffith, and to my surprise he said, “Kick him back, you have my permission.” I was floored! “Really” I said? So, I walked over to this kid and, yes, I gave him a swift kick in the shin! When he came running up to Mr. Griffith, he got no sympathy, and a lecture in how to treat others! Mr. Griffith was my hero! Too bad I didn’t encounter others like him. My agony finally stopped my Junior year in high school. My best friend (the same one from elementary school) betrayed me and became one of my tourmentors. I can remember sitting at home in a fetal position, depressed, crying, and crying out to space. I had accepted Christ as a young teen, but He wasn’t real to me yet. But surely it was He that suddenly gave me the thought, “Jennifer, why are you allowing others to determine your worth, and your feelings? Why are you letting them control you?” That was my “Aha!” moment! I suddenly realized that I had a spine, and I simply wasn’t going to take it anymore! It changed everything! My senior year in High School was great, and I went on to enjoy college with a whole new attitude. I thank the Lord for snapping me out of my pity party, and for allowing me to use these bad experiences to His glory as I relate to others who may have low self worth because they allow others, not God, define them. Thank you for sharing, Sister!

    -Jennifer